Katie Hopkins is hell-bent upon becoming the go-to bitch for television producers in need of a cheap villain to fill sofa space, capitalising on her notorious appearance on ITV’s ‘This Morning’. From the beginning of our interview, she makes it clear she is here to “say what you can’t say anymore”. She is a pawn in the tiresome narrative of breakfast chat shows, perpetuating a meaningless cycle of scandal, outcry and comment.
She accuses me of being “the sort of person who believes in climate change”, in a provocative non-sequitur with no relevance our conversation. On one level, she is evidently attempting to keep the camera focused on her by inspiring fresh outrage.
For example, I believe that parents almost always seek the best possible life for their children. Hopkins does not. “I don’t believe every mother wants what’s best for their baby,” she says. “[Single teenage mothers] want what’s best for themselves. And what’s best for them is doing very little to support their children.” She goes on to tell me in absolute seriousness how “young mums… take KFC home, stick it in the blender and feed it to their babies.” This is precisely the sort of pantomime nonsense which makes Hopkins so easy to revile.
In doing so, though, lefties like myself run the risk of engaging in dangerous and hypocritical snobbery of our own. The vitriol Hopkins peddles on daytime TV is being drip-fed into the nation daily, and must be taken seriously, representative as it is of a far wider culture of disdain. In these days of debt, unemployment and uncertainty, it is easy to see the appeal of Hopkins’ economic and educational ideology that “you have to let people fail”.
She spells out her views in simple terms: “I think that hierarchy is a great way of sorting life and I think that shortcuts are a great way of making hierarchy work and I think that the class system is the best system that perfectly matches this hierarchy.” In other words, your position in the “hierarchy” of society is decided by a series of value judgements based on arbitrary “shortcuts” such as class, race, gender, appearance and even name.
“[For everyone] to be educated the same? to have the same chance?” To Hopkins, these are empty aspirations — there is not enough money in the economy for everyone to be financially secure and well-educated, and so some must fail that others may succeed. She sees the class system as “much more effective than any social policy” in determining who is able to access higher education — who will succeed, and who will fail. Private schools are an “efficient way of processing highly intelligent individuals… into elite institutions”, because the children who deserve to succeed are naturally to be found amongst the upper classes.
In contrast, there is no room in the state educational system for struggling children whose parents cannot spare the time to help with homework or the money for private tuition. “If the parents aren’t going to take responsibility”, Hopkins expects primary-age pupils to fend for themselves. “At a certain age, around 8 years old, you can recognise either you are going to do something about that or you’re not.”
Rich children “are funnelled into private schools” which “turn them into fantastically inquisitive minds”. Children of equal academic potential, who come from homes where there is less money and less time to spare, are mere intellectual collateral. “It’s harsh,” says Hopkins, “but life is harsh.”
We also discuss other “shortcuts”, such as the use of racial profiling by the police. To Hopkins, it is simple. “The ratio of black people that are found to have committed crime is greater. And so we are therefore making those shortcuts… now clearly I’m not suggesting racism is a great idea. I’m merely saying there are shortcuts that exist.” It should be noted that racial profiling makes no difference whatsoever to crime figures, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. (She is careful to tell me that “nobody can use race any more” when making value judgements between people. I will let those two words, “any more”, speak for themselves.)
Hopkins is as scornful of the campaign for women’s rights as she is of the right of black people to a fair criminal process. “Do I believe there’s a lot of inequality around? No, I don’t.” To her, feminism is a matter of “special treatment” and mere semantics, and she talks dismissively of all-male golf clubs and all-female literary prizes when the topic is broached. In fact, she tells me, “the equality brigade has managed to get themselves far more than equal”. Moments later, Hopkins freely admits that she would always “pick the man” when choosing between otherwise equal candidates for a job, as she “knows the cost of maternity leave”.
Hopkins does not “believe in the world of –isms”. This is despite statistical evidence that working-class women continue to learn far less than their male counterparts, as this study by the Institute for Public Policy Research shows. All this proves is that “there are idle people in this world, and there are grafters.”
“Money is very easy to come by if you do nothing”, she tells me. “Until we cap benefits at £20,000 a year, we will never find the workforce we are looking for.” Two and a half million people in the UK are currently unemployed- but Katie Hopkins has the solution. “You have to create your own job. Ask twenty people if you can take their bins out for them. Ask thirty people if you can mow their lawn. Just knock on a door.” It is simple — an entire generation can drag itself out of unemployment by doing each other’s chores.
According to Hopkins, single mothers only “want to find an easy way of getting their kid through life”. She seeks to absolve us of our corporate responsibility to help those at the bottom of the economic ladder, by perpetuating the toxic delusion that life on benefits is anything other than an endless struggle. “I don’t think a lot of mothers want what’s best for their baby. I think a lot of mothers what is best for them, and what is best for them is doing frankly very little to support their children.”
If she were an Oxford admissions tutor, Hopkins assures me she wouldn’t “want a Tyrone in her tutor group” when she could have a “Cecil”. That is to say, she would favour an upper-class applicant over a working-class student. “It’s a case of being true to what you’ve learnt… not many Tyrones I’ve had the misfortune to meet have been terribly nice.” Hopkins wants everyone to know their place. The working class should not aspire to a university education, for that is the preserve of the rich elite. She tells me that people “look up to Oxford because it is the hierarchy.”
Hopkins’ argument is that “it is not the responsibility of the state [and] it is not the responsibility of the taxpayer” to help children who do not get the academic help they need from their parents. However, failure to invest in state schools will leave thousands of potential high-achievers without the training they need to support Britain’s gradual financial recovery, rather than achieving Hopkins’ stated aim of “getting this economy streamlined” by saving money in the short-term.
This is not a matter of what Hopkins terms “vengeful social mobility”. It is simply a matter of ensuring that the best possible people get the best possible training to give British businesses the best possible future employees. She is “sickened… by social mobility clauses” which make allowances for the different levels of education and support university applicants have received. But higher education exists to provide the economy with the scientists and businessmen and innovators it needs, irrespective of their social background. Oxford should embody not hierarchy but opportunity.
Katie Hopkins believes that the poor are poor because they are lazy, and that the rich are rich because they are talented and hard-working. This is a lie. Although she contends that “we all buy into this shortcut system” where we can be judged on our social standing, class has nothing to do with the degree you can study or the career you can follow.
It would be useless to tell Hopkins the truth — that snobbery is as groundless as racism, and that the word “chav” is as dehumanising as the word “nigger”. The value of human life evidently means nothing to her. However, you do not need a sense of social responsibility to see how these generalisations are hurting our economy.
All of Katie Hopkins’ “shortcuts” (and this is a word she repeats more than any other) seem to make life much easier. They distract us from the true causes of our poverty, debt and despair by making monsters of the innocent. They absolve us of our duty of care toward the vulnerable. But they also prevent whole generations from realising their academic and economical potential. They must be resisted. We cannot afford to do otherwise.